computer

Caroline Dinh

Rockville, Maryland

Richard Montgomery High School

Claudia Ann Seaman Award

Runner-Up for Poetry

CAS for Database

Poetry

/kəmˈpyo͞odər/

noun

          - she who computes.

          - she who flexes her fine fingers and steps up to

                    tame the wild machine.

          - she who weaves wires into electric quilts of capability. calculator

                    cog woman. punch card priestess. poetess

                                        of bits and binary.

                              - she who spins stories out of circuitry.

          - she who solders soldiers that match the might of man,

                    - she who, like a mother, combs through switches and wires,

                              mining lice from her child’s hair, debugging.

          - she who writes books that move men to the moon,

                    piled up in her own paper rocket-ship. claim your place

                    in the stars. future first women on mars will follow your

                              sharp footsteps, slick heels,

          - she who cooks the best meals.

                    - she who cleans homes and cares for the children,

                              who pioneers by day and patches

                    ripped jeans by night. programming

                              is as intricate as crochet, in a way; programming

                    requires the sharp eye of

          - she who scrubs every smudge and

                    irons every crease and

                              arranges every portrait on the wall.

                                        programming is for her.



(archaic)



you were crowned queens of computing before you succumbed to the shadows.

          you died forgotten empresses, female pharaohs: mummified in

black-and-white snapshots, and when programmers forgot how to wear skirts,

history forgot who you were.


          they buried you in unmarked graves for us dreamer girls to dig up:

dreamer girls in a world where every search spans a snap and every library

lingers one finger tap away and every database, every dictionary

displays at the drag of a key. and yet all we find when we search for

your names is this obsolete entry and your snapshot sarcophagi and your

headstones heralded by dust.


                    and we brush away the cobwebs.

                              and we read aloud your names.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

This poem contains as many clever nuances as it does definitions for the word "computer". Amid intricate alliteration and complex structure, the sharp, punchy voice flows seamlessly from one definition to the next. The resulting dictionary entry beautifully articulates the contributions of women, their forgotten history, and how their legacy lasts through the active efforts of young women today.


PRAISE FROM TARA BETTS, POETRY JUDGE


Although there have been books about historic instances of women in computing like "Hidden Figures" and "Code Girls," this poem is a tribute to those women who have been pioneers in STEM fields, while many of them worked the unseen second shift of being mothers and partners. The turn from a poem that begins with as a definition poem with anaphoric repetitions, shifts to a short praise poem addressed directly to those  women.  It's a story that is simultaneously needed in more history books, yet all too often, overlooked.


Caroline Dinh is a Vietnamese-American writer and artist. Her hobbies include painting, poetry, prose, and programming—sometimes all at the same time. She's mildly obsessed with leitmotifs, hackathons, and the color cyan. Caroline currently attends Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, where she will graduate in 2021.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR